How Does Blood Pressure Medicine Work? The 5 Types Explained

A healthy lifestyle is one part of successful hypertension management. For many people, prescription medications are also an essential part of a treatment plan, especially as we get older 1. This article explains how some of the most popular medicines work.

So, How do the Different Types of Blood Pressure Medicine Work?

1. Beta-Blockers (examples: Atenolol, Metoprolol) 2

Beta-blockers dilate (make bigger) blood vessels. This way blood flows better, putting less stress on the heart. Beta-blockers have a long history of effectiveness. They are generally taken 1-2 times a day with or without food. Beta-blockers also can help people feel calmer because they slow down your heart rate. Are there side-effects? Beta-blockers can cause dizziness and even make you feel sleepy. Your medical provider may need to adjust your dose from time to time.

2. Calcium Channel Blockers (examples: Amlodipine, Verapamil) 2

Calcium channel blockers are relatively new medications for high blood pressure. They work by opening blood vessels, which relieves pressure on the heart. Side effects can include constipation, headaches, and low blood pressure.

3. ACE Inhibitors (Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitors) (examples: lisinopril, ramipril) 2

ACE inhibitors lower a hormone that raises blood pressure. ACE inhibitors have an added benefit. They also help keep kidneys healthy. Be careful with eating potassium-rich foods because ACE inhibitors can raise potassium levels.

Some people taking ACE inhibitors experience a dry cough. In most cases, this goes away over time.

4. ARB’s (Angiotensin Receptor Blocker) (examples: losartan, valsartan)2

ARB’s work in a very similar manner to ACE inhibitors. They are often used if a person has a dry cough as a side effect from an ACE inhibitor.

5. Diuretics (examples: HCTZ, furosemide)2

Diuretics are sometimes called water pills. Diuretics help the kidneys get rid of salt (sodium) and water. This allows the heart to work without the added strain of too much fluid. Diuretics can lower potassium. Be sure to eat potassium-rich foods with these medicines. Your healthcare provider might also suggest taking a vitamin pill.

Many in one pill

Today, many pills contain several different kinds of medications. Be sure to ask your provider to explain exactly what is in your pills. Get information on do’s and don’ts for your specific medication!

Best Type of Blood Pressure Medicine?

Every person is unique. And the best medication for you may be different from that which works best for a friend or family member. That is why it is so important to measure your blood pressure at home. Measuring a few times a week will give you and your care team the ability to see how medications are affecting your blood pressure. This way it will be easy to make changes if needed.
For personalized medical advice please consult your physician.

Medical Disclaimer
The articles provided on this website are for informational purposes only. In addition, it is written for a generic audience and not a specific case; therefore, this information should not be used for diagnostic or medical treatment. This site does not attempt to replace the patient-physician relationship and fully recommends the reader to seek out the best care from his/her physician and/or diabetes educator.

1.The Journals of Gerontology: Series A, Volume 56, Issue 4, 1 April 2001, Pages M217–M225,


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